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article imageRobots can ‘set us free’ and keep jobs

By Tim Sandle     Dec 13, 2017 in Business
London - A leading British politician has weighed in on the debate over robots and human labour, stating that job losses are unlikely and the advances in automation being adopted by businesses are for the greater good.
Economic analysis relating to the robotics and automation of work is contradictory. Oxford university academics Dr. Michael Osborne and Dr. Carl Frey have stated that over fifty percent of jobs in a developed economy are vulnerable in terms of humans being replaced by machines. The researchers estimated the probability of computerization for 702 different occupations, using a Gaussian process classifier.
Job losses: big or small?
This tallies with figures for the U.K. specifically, which come from the Future Advocacy think tank. The futurist organization, The Guardian reports, predicts at least one-fifth of jobs across Britain were at high risk of being automated. This could rise to 40 percent in some parts of the U.K. There is also a warning from PricewaterhouseCoopers that over 10 million jobs are at high risk of being replaced by machines.
Figures from OECD, however, see the potential employment loss as only ten percent of occupations. Moreover there is the likelihood of new forms of employment being created, to fit in with the automated economy. The speed at which these are created will determine how precarious many current types of occupation are.
Issues for governments
These issues inevitably present concerns for policy makers. While some politicians shy away from these matters, Tom Watson, who is Deputy Leader of the British Labour Party, said he is baking a new report, drawn up by economists called ‘The Future of Work’, and which is designed to dispel fears that technology will lead to a high number of job losses.
Tom Watson addresses Labour supporters after he was elected the deputy leader of Britain's oppo...
Tom Watson addresses Labour supporters after he was elected the deputy leader of Britain's opposition party during a meeting in London, on September 12, 2015
Ben Stansall, AFP
Quoted by the political website Labour List, Watson said: “Much has been written about the impact of technological change – and the dystopian future we could all face as a result of the rise of the robots.”
The MP added: “It can sometimes feel like we are preparing for a world in which artificial intelligence, algorithms and automation – rather than human endeavour and hard work – will shape every aspect of our society and our economy.”
Less manual work?
Among the advantages discussed by Watson are a reduction in heavy lifting and manual tasks, leading a future workforce able to focus on activities that generate greater economic benefits for a wider number of people. Watson presents this, in nods towards uptopianism, as “liberating.”
Watson’s comments are in keeping with a recent report from Siemens, which suggests the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ will add billions to economies and that, instead of fearing robots, the drive towards automation will actually generate more jobs. Digital Journal analyzed the report earlier this year: “Robots will add jobs to the economy: Siemens.”
The report itself makes several recommendations for the U.K. economy, including adding artificial intelligence to the school curriculum; improving lifelong learning for adults to equip them with future skills; and reforming business rates to incentivize business to invest more in new technologies.
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